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Country Road and National Gallery of Victoria launch inaugural First Nations artists mentorship program 

Country Road and National Gallery of Victoria launch inaugural First Nations artists mentorship program 


The Country Road and NGV First Nations Commissions is a national, biennial mentorship and exhibition program that connects up-and-coming Australian First Nations artists and designers with an acclaimed industry mentor. 

This program is proudly the first and only initiative of its kind in Australia, and marks the first partnership between the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and Country Road. 

The Commission aims to further add to existing programs that respectfully support and bolster First Nations communities, such as Country Road’s collaboration with Darwin Aboriginal Art Fair Foundation and the NGV’s Indigenous Fashion Commission. 

NGV director Tony Ellwood AM is thrilled to provide a new significant platform for Australian First Nations art and design. 

“This mentorship program has enabled the NGV to cultivate important new relationships with First Nations practitioners across the country, and will enhance our ability to represent and profile our rich and diverse Indigenous communities,” says Ellwood. 

A mentor and artist from every Australian state and territory are paired together, resulting from a mentor nominating an emerging artist to participate in the program. 

The nominated artists hail from a wide range of artistic and creative disciplines including weaving, textiles, installation and painting. They will receive guidance during the conception, development and creation process of a major work influenced by the theme ‘My Country.’

These major works will then be displayed at the Ian Potter centre in March 2024, which coincides with Country Road celebrating its 50th anniversary as a beloved Australian company.

Managing director of Country Road Elle Roseby is excited by the promise and potential of this partnership. 

“We’re thrilled to be working with the NGV to platform inspiring creatives across the country, while celebrating their stories and increasing the recognition of First Nations cultures, histories and knowledge,” says Roseby. 

The commission is hoping to enable the formation of nourishing creative relationships between artists and mentors, and is formatted to honour the complex storytelling and knowledge sharing systems cherished by First Nations communities.

Senior curator of Australian and First Nations art at the NGV Myles Russell-Cook emphasises the value of mentorship, as the notion of sharing knowledge, history and memory is integral to First Nations practices. 

“For many First Nations people, the concept of intergenerational knowledge transfer is at the heart of how we live our lives. Mentorship is about respecting the knowledge of those who have come before us, and making space for those who will come afterwards,” says Russell-Cook. 

Overall, this series speaks to the NGV’s aim to further enrich its globally renowned holdings of Australian First Nations art and design, as certain major works from the mentorship program will enter the NGV collection. 

The exhibition for the Country Road and NGV First Nations Commissions will be on display March 2024 at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne.

Photography supplied by Iwantja Arts.

Featured Image: Alec Baker and Eric Barney from Iwantja Arts, who are being mentored by Vincent Namatjira OAM.

Check out Country Road’s recent co-designed homewares range with Ngen’giwumirri artist Kieren Karritpul. 

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